Solitaire… Internet… Facebook… Smart-phones… ????

Our esteemed Editor, the venerable and wise Mr van Dijl, has been kind enough to copy me in on some of his email traffic this week.

In particular he has been talking with Kathryn about bosses banning Blackberrys (or is that Blackberries) and i-phones because there is now a belief that they cost more in terms of lost productivity than they make.

The article went on to concern itself with businesses being worried that taking away an employee’s smart-phone would constitute a reduction in their remuneration package.

Hmmm… a blog for another day, that one.

Dirk has a different view, though.

He can remember when PCs were first introduced and bosses tried to ban Solitaire. Dirk said ‘no’ (in a Dutch accent), when they are playing Solitaire they are learning how to use a mouse.

Then came the Internet… ban it, came the cry. No, said the Dutchman, it’s helping people to research and find information.

And so it went on.

From an HR point of view, there are a couple of concerns about the ban/not ban argument.

The first thing is to do with ‘policies’. If a business wants to control the use of any of the things we’re talking about, it needs to have a usage policy in place that can be applied to everyone.

The problem is, most usage policies are too restrictive. They prevent development which constricts both the individual and, given that every business is made up from a group of individuals, the growth of the business as well.

A blanket ban on any of these things won’t work and is impossible to enforce in any case. And, I suspect, many of the developments in the use of social media, particularly in business, are coming from people who are ’playing’ in the work place.

But there’s a second ‘HR’ problem in banning, which is nothing to do with policy and enforcement. It’s to do with management.

What kind of environments are we creating where someone is so bored that they feel the need to spend all their time on Facebook? What are our managers doing if they are not confronting an issue of social media usage if someone is not meeting their objectives?

If they are using social media and meeting their objectives… where’s the problem?

I suspect, though, the solution lies somewhere in the middle.

Have designated times and machines where using social media is okay and harness the benefits. Have a policy that lays out rules for usage rather than banning use altogether. Embrace new technologies and those that have aptitude should be encouraged to help shape the businesses future.

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